From his basement workspace in Stavanger, Norway, Gustav Paulsen a retired businessmen but more importantly, is the leader of his local chapter of Norway’s Grandparents Climate Campaign (GCC). Formed in 2006 by a group of concerned elders, many of which from influential backgrounds, these feisty grandparents use their positions of power to push the public debate surrounding climate policy in Norway. GCC regards climate change as the greatest ethical challenge of our time and a matter of intergenerational justice. GCC works with old and young alike, with the aim of building a more ecologically and socially just world, focusing specifically on reducing Norway’s dependency on fossil fuels.
Several heart attacks and nine stents later, Gustav is hardly slowing down as he ages. “We need a World-War-II-scale mobilization to transition our world to a zero-carbon economy,” he declared as we sat on the pier of his home on an island outside of Stavanger. “We are at war with the planet,” he said matter-of-factly. “Or perhaps we are at war with ourselves.”
While the group of grandparents remains mostly respectful and civil in their campaigning, Gustav pushes for more disobedience. Civily, that is. And for Gustav, non-violent direct action opens up new avenues of action as a grandparent.
“There is a bog outside Stavanger that is planned to be striped and used as fertilizer for food crops and flowers,” Gustav told us. As we learned, bogs are extremely important in stabilizing our climate; peat stores at least a third of all the carbon on land. “Mining this bog would have a huge climate impact,” Gustav affirmed. “All for fertilizer to be sold at garden stores. If they start the mining project, I will be there in a rocking chair, chained to the fence. Knitting. All of us grandparents will. We will not let this go through.”
Gustav garnered a strong connection to the natural world through a lifetime of long distance sailing. Sitting by his beloved boat on his dock, he regaled stories of trips taken, mostly without fossil fuels. During one trip across the Atlantic he braved the northern route, sailing to Iceland, Greenland, Canada and finally to the United States before returning to Stavanger. “What I learned on the water forever shaped me. And now that I have grandchildren, climate change means something different. Something more. It is threatening everything about their future. And now that I am retired, I have no excuse.”